Ethics Classes spreading

Desiree (De) Barter is on a mission to introduce Ethics classes to Parkes schools.
Desiree (De) Barter is on a mission to introduce Ethics classes to Parkes schools.

Desiree (De) Barter is on a mission to introduce Ethics classes to Parkes schools.

De (nee Wilson) was born and raised in Parkes, but now resides in Forbes and is a volunteer Ethics Teacher for the charity, Primary Ethics, organising ethics classes at Forbes North Primary School.

“The Ethics Program was originally considered to be controversial, but it is a wonderful program that greatly benefits the students who don’t attend religion classes in NSW public primary schools,” she said.

Ethics was introduced to Forbes North Primary School with outstanding results.

“We started with 17 kids and now have 80 students, and they love the program.

“Basically the kids talk and offer their opinions on certain lifestyle issues - and then learn to elaborate on those views to give them a more rounded perspective.”

De understands that Ethics classes are not being taught in Parkes schools yet, so is contacting them to offer help to get them up and running. 

“I want to explain to parents that if they want their children to attend Ethics classes and if Primary Ethics can find and train volunteers to teach and organise the classes, then the schools must offer them to students,” she said.

Under a law passed in late 2010, NSW public school children have a legal right to attend classes in philosophical ethics at their school, just as they have a right to attend religious education classes in their faith.

“Forbes North Public embraced Ethics after some resistance because people thought it was anti-religious,” De pointed out. 

“Parents came to realise that the 78 topics in the Primary Ethics curriculum is in no way anti-religious and, in fact, the program teaches children how to approach ethical issues and to work out, using logic and reasoning, what is the right course of action to take, or what is better or worse. 

“Primary Ethics says its curriculum teaches children how to think, it doesn’t tell them what to think.

“The introduction of Ethics classes has to be driven by parents, not the schools.

“It is such a good program with very clear rules. The kids love it and are now big advocates of the program. It is definitely not, opposition to Scripture.”

Primary Ethics Classes are available to all children from Kindergarten to Year 6 who don’t attend the available Scripture/Special Religious Education classes in their school.

The proviso is there has to be trained volunteers from within the school or wider community - like De - conducting the classes.

De explained that in Forbes, Primary Ethics is run by a very small group of dedicated volunteers. 

They are part of a state-wide network of 1,800 volunteers who teach or organise Ethics classes for 29,000 students each week in 383 schools. 

Primary Ethics helps communities to teach ethics to their children.

Leading Australian academic, Dr Sue Knight, has created the curriculum.

Last year was the first time the program had been offered in the Central West with volunteers from Forbes North Primary School attending training in Bathurst.

Since then more schools within the region have become involved and coordinator Tricia Greenhill is hopeful other schools will also take up the program so that children who don’t go to religion classes have something meaningful to do with their time.

“You don’t need experience as a teacher but you must be interested in engaging children in ethical discussion and keeping your opinion out of the room,” De says.

“People wishing to conduct the classes must go through police and working with children checks and be interviewed for suitability.”

Training happens online and in compulsory two-day face-to-face training sessions.

Primary Ethics is hoping to run more training in the Central West in a few months time, so is now recruiting volunteers to organise and teach classes.

Forbes Deputy Mayor, Graeme Miller, a former student and Captain of Forbes North, sat in on one of the classes and was very impressed.

“The program teaches respect, values, listening and critical thinking skills,” Cr Miller said.

“It would have been great to have this program in place when I was at school.”

Here in Parkes, there are no Ethics classes currently available at schools. 

If it is something you would like happen then parents should first contact the principal or the ethics co-ordinator at the emails address below.

To find out more about the curriculum or if you are interested in volunteering, please contact or visit


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